Monday, September 24, 2007

Saying something worth saying

As I've gotten into the thick of medical school, I've discovered that the development of my time management skills has lagged behind the demands being placed on me. It's not easy to blog when one is already behind in the many pages of reading of dense medical textbooks one is expected to keep up with every day. Hence, many entries I started weeks ago remain unfinished.

I've decided that Mark of Western Survival, who also blogs only sporadically, is right: it's better for one's posts to be infrequent but worthwhile, than to post the kind of incessant, trivial, vapid one-liners as we see from, for example, Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO. Of course, it would be great to come up with something astute and thought-provoking nearly every day, as do Vanishing American and Lawrence Auster, but not everyone's schedule (nor intellect) permits this.

I must say that the time constraints I've been under have got me thinking about the liberal nature of our society and the disadvantages conservatives face: I believe it takes more time to be a conservative than it does to be a liberal. This is because liberalism is so thoroughly entrenched in our society as to be the "default" view in most situations. Liberals can therefore take their beliefs for granted; they don't really need to be able to justify them, because they know that most people around them will simply assume that their claims are correct. Conservatives, on the other hand, must spend extra time studying to buttress our arguments, both in order to advance conservative views, because we know that the instant we make a conservative claim we will be called on the carpet for it and will need cold, hard facts to back it up, and to refute liberal ones, because we know that any off-the-cuff rebuttals we offer that are not backed up by "official" citations will simply be assumed to be wrong.

For example, this morning in our small group session, the same liberal black young woman I have referred to previously objected to the term "Caucasian" which was used in a written scenario we were given, on the basis that it was "outdated" (so? Why is it outdated? Must we assume that everything old is bad?) and because it was coined as a contrast to "Mongoloid" and it means "the beautiful people." Now, this claim that the word Caucasian means "beautiful people" sounded totally bogus to me, but I had no basis on which to object to it. I knew that it comes from the Caucasus mountains, but I wasn't sure where that name in turn came from. When I got home, I did some Googling and found the apparent origin of the tale--Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, the German naturalist who came up with the idea of dividing humanity into Caucasians, Mongolians, Malayans, Negros, and Americans, had written that the Caucasus region had produced "the most beautiful race of men." That's it. The word itself is just the name of a mountain range, nothing more. But I, not knowing this at the time, had nothing to say. And whenever this happens--a liberal claim is made and no conservative counterarguments are offered--liberalism wins a small victory.

And what could I have done? There is no way I could have anticipated that this subject would come up, and even if I could have, I don't have the time to spend an hour every evening prepping myself with conservative rebuttals of liberal arguments. I and a liberal classmate can sit in lecture all morning, spend all afternoon reading textbooks, spend all evening organizing our notes, and then at 10:00 PM he can turn to me and say "it's a travesty that the wealthiest nation in the world doesn't recognize health care as a fundamental human right and provide it free of charge to all its citizens." And that that point, it's 10:00 PM and I'm ready for bed; I don't have time to spend hours reading John Stuart Mill and John Locke and Tocqueville and Thomas Jefferson, studying the classical and traditional American concepts of liberty and self-government which contradict this claim, when I've already had to spend hours reading medical textbooks. The liberal, however, faces no such hurdle. The hours spent reading medical textbooks do not interfere with his ability to advance liberalism, because all he has to do is make his claim; the surrounding society gives him the benefit of the doubt.

This is why I'm less optimistic than some of my fellow traditionalists about a revival of traditional America. I fear liberalism already has too strong a foothold in our society. As I put it in an unpublished comment sent to VFR a few weeks ago,

You are correct to point out that both you and Mark, in speculating on how white-majority America might restore itself, are speaking of the coming into existence of something that does not now exist, and that is what we must hope for. The biggest question that comes to my mind is, how can this happen given the extreme and pervasive liberalism of the younger generations? The last generation to have a real memory of traditional America, of what it was like to live in a society where liberalism was not the dominant way of thinking, are now dying out. My parents' generation were the ones who rebelled in the Sixties, but at least they grew up in a world where their parents listened to classical music in the home, they had to read Shakespeare and Wordsworth in school, they learned about the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Pact, and George Washington crossing the Delaware, it was unacceptable for an unmarried couple to live together, homosexuality was unspeakable, there was no affirmative action and it was understood that this was basically a white Western Christian society, etc. They have some memory of that world, and might conceivably return to believing in it if conditions became bad enough.

But they're now turning the reins over to my generation, who are totally cut off from that tradition, having no memory of it, no knowledge of what it's like to live in anything other than modern liberal society, whose only "knowledge" of traditional America comes in the form of the extreme liberal caricatures of it we're so used to hearing: it was a horrible oppressive dark past where women couldn't vote or be educated and were kept barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, blacks had to sit in the back of the bus, everyone was sexually repressed because the extent of the typical birds-and-the-bees talk was "lie back and think of England" and condoms weren't available to 13-year-olds, and so on. Even I, a product of public schools in the 1980s, feel woefully ignorant of such things as literature for someone who considers himself a traditionalist--for example, I read your comment on Scott of Powerline's appllication of Yeats's Easter 1916 to the Dartmouth controversy, and couldn't understand what you found so wrong with it (unless you meant that because Yeats was expressing some admiration for the revolutionaries, the poem just wasn't particularly applicable to this situation.) Frankly, it's hard to imagine any significant number of my peers adopting anything like a self-consciously white-majority traditionalist philosophy, no matter how bad things get. My personal perception is that there are just too many of them who would never return to the "dark ages" when we silly white-bread people were so ignorant that we didn't understand that everyone is different and you have to tolerate and accept all viewpoints and lifestyles, who would literally rather die than become "racist" or advocate "authoritarianism."

I don't mean to be pessimistic and say it can't happen. I agree with you, that as long as we're hoping for something we should hope and work toward the restoration of traditional America which would have historical continuity with the nation that was founded in 1776, rather than the effective dissolution of that nation and its replacement with something which, though traditional and Western, would not be the same nation. I just have not been able to think of a way of surmounting this enormous obstacle presented by the loss of connection to the old America, and our pervasive liberalism, so deeply ingrained in the younger generations that it's as natural to them as breathing. As long as that stands in the way, very few people will want to fight for either the restoration of America or secession from it.
I have to admit, as I re-read that, I was thinking of my medical school peers, and they might not be the most representative sample of the American population. Unfortunate as it is, at this point in time, the cognitive elite in our society tend overwhelmingly to be liberal, and medical students--well, no one wants to admit this, but we had to take an IQ test to get in. Furthermore, only 53% of my class is white, and these Orientals and Indians are not likely to be at the vanguard of a white-majority traditionalist resurgence. So maybe things look worse from where I stand than they do in many other segments of society. On the other hand, the cognitive elites are the standard-bearers and rule-makers, and the time constraints of being a conservative, the necessity of extra studying just to be able to hold our own against liberalism, when many of us have daily lives to attend to, while liberals can get on with their lives while making liberal arguments unopposed if conservatives have not done our homework, make me wonder if control of our society can ever be wrested back from liberals who seem determined to drive it into the ground.
I would be interested in knowing what other conservatives and traditionalists think about this.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Freedom is slavery; increasing secularism is increasing theocracy

John Savage at Brave New World Watch has begun an interesting discussion on how traditionalists should reclaim the virtues of Victorianism and Puritanism, which are constantly denigrated by the left as virtually the apotheosis of everything they see as wrong with the world. In the comments, Vanishing American wrote:

And who was it who said (I wish I could remember) that each age condemns the very thing they have least of: for example our age condemns restraint and self-discipline, and ironically we are in absolutely no danger of overdoing those things.

The quotation she is probably thinking of is one often cited by conservatives, from C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters:

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding.” Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.
Notice how Lewis mentions the attack on Puritanism by name, something we continue to see in 21st century America. This quotation also brought to mind a comment I once made on VFR about how the less conservatively religious our society becomes, the more the secular left bizarrely and nonsensically attacks it for becoming increasingly conservatively religious:

...they talk as though traditional religious belief is something that’s on the increase in our society, saying things like “given the frightening direction our country is headed...” or “if this goes on...” , when it’s obvious that by any conceivable measure religiosity is decreasing in America. They make it sound as though until recently, America was the land of the free and the home of the brave atheists, with no religion in public schools, legal abortion and pornography, and other such “freedoms” until we crazy right-wing religious nutjobs just recently came out of nowhere and started trying to take over the country. Can they really possibly believe this? Do they not know that prior to the 1960’s, public schools all across America opened with a prayer and Bible reading, that prior to 1972 abortion was largely illegal, that women really used to be all but formally excluded from the professions, that it was only in the 21st century that sodomy laws were struck down, that many of the states used to have established churches, or even in colonial times made it a crime not to go to church on Sunday?...

Indeed, I would like to ask one of these liberals (and would do so if I ever got into a face-to-face discussion about it) the following question: given that all of America’s past prior to the 1960s, from the time of our very Founding, looks exactly like what you are calling a “theocracy,” do you believe that for most of America’s history we were a theocracy?

As yet more evidence of this, when I was searching for the Lewis quote, I came across a review of The Screwtape Letters by an atheist, who italicized the sentence "and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey" [1] and then had this to say:

I could not resist highlighting that last sentence, which demonstrates a nearly prophetic insight into the political character which has taken Christianity over in the United States today. In recent years, American Christianity has been subsumed into the political aims of an aggressively militant and zealous right-wing faction which, to judge by their actions, believes Jesus supported endless war and militarism, slashing social programs, and cutting taxes on the rich. The leaders of this movement constantly rail against the evils of liberalism and secularism, and support an intrusive, paternalistic state that controls all its citizens' most private decisions - when they will give birth, who they are permitted to marry, under what circumstances they are allowed to die. Most notably, the Christian right supports an omnipotent, unaccountable executive who operates in total secrecy and without checks and balances of any kind. This support verges on worship in the case of George W. Bush, who claims the power to break any law he pleases if, in his sole judgment, doing so is necessary to protect the country from terrorists. If anyone at all could be described as "hastening to be slaves or tyrants", it is the followers of this movement. Whatever Lewis' faults, it stands as a mark in his favor that he recognized, as today's religious right does not, the dangers of blind submission to authority that comes in a religious guise.

Now, this is really quite remarkable. Notwithstanding the devotion to President Bush by some conservative Christians (though this is always overestimated and overstated by secularists) and how it could represent a small step in the direction of tyranny, look at the other things listed as associated with freedom: social programs, taxes on the rich, euthanasia, homosexual "marriage." We've been seeing this kind of thought from the left for a long time, and one must admit, there is a weird kind of internal sense to it: soaking the rich makes everyone else free from economic inequality; banning trans fats makes people free from heart disease; banning tobacco frees people from lung cancer; mandating seat belt use frees people from injuries caused by automobile accidents; mandating comprehensive sex education and the HPV vaccine for schoolchildren and not even allowing parents to opt out frees people from sexually transmitted disease; instituting homosexual "marriage" frees homosexuals to have their relationships publicly recognized, to be guaranteed sharing of spousal benefits. Never mind that much of what has traditionally been considered freedom must be revoked in order to guarantee these freedoms: individual freedoms (e.g., the freedom to decide for myself whether to smoke tobacco), family freedoms (the freedom of parents to decide what's best for their children), and social freedoms (the freedom of a people collectively to decide whether they want their society to recognize sexual deviancy or not.) The only freedom that matters is the freedom to live a liberal life. I admit, many of us conservatives are in favor of various restrictions on individual liberty: abortion, pornography, obscenity, adultery, divorce, though these fall under the classic right of a society to self-regulate, have existed in America since before its Founding, and I wouldn't want them enforced at the federal level. But the left wants to enact (and in some cases already has enacted) some of the most intrusive, oppressive, and burdensome restrictions on liberty imaginable--restricting what we can eat, or requiring us to undergo certain medical treatments--and they honestly don't see this as "hastening to be slaves or tyrants." Freedom is slavery, indeed.

This trend in which the left attacks our society for the opposite of what it is actually doing is certainly perplexing. What could be the reason for it? In the VFR entry mentioned above, Lawrence Auster suggests that because our civilization is under threat from Islam, but we cannot criticize Islam because it is an exotic non-Western Other, the left is displacing what would be proper criticism of Islam onto the West's own religion, Christianity. I don't doubt that that that is a driving factor, but there is another I've been considering. Because liberals believe that man is basically good, they believe that the "default" state of life is a liberal utopia existing everywhere on earth, and the only reason this is not the present reality is that conservatives are interfering and preventing it from happening. Therefore, when they battle with conservatives, they see conservatives as the ones picking the fight, not themselves. In their minds, their role is always passive and the conservatives' is always active. So, for example, when a city has had a nativity scene on display at Christmastime in front of its city hall since time immemorial, and then the village atheist gets the ACLU involved and launches a lawsuit, and conservatives rally to the cause of keeping the nativity scene there, the left seems them as aggressively inserting displays of religion into public life. It doesn't matter if the nativity scene has been there since the town's incorporation; because in the liberal mindset it's not supposed to be, the conservatives are the aggressors and the liberals are the defenders. Indeed, in the liberal mindset, even though their hero Thomas Jefferson, the very author of the phrase "wall of separation between church and state" clearly did not see established state churches as unconstitutional, since they actually existed during his tenure as president and he did not see fit to try to abolish them, religion has no place in public life and anyone seeking to keep it there is picking a fight.

Thus, when conservatives so much as merely try to preserve the present order (e.g., keeping sacred music in the school Christmas concert, keeping strip clubs out of town), the left sees them as working to create or establish a theocracy. They don't realize that most people were happy with the way things were, that conservative activism on these issues really arose only in reaction to the left's in-our-faces attempt to secularize our society, because they view secularism as the way things were always supposed to be from the beginning. Therefore, though they have won many battles, causing a trend away from public religiosity (I won't use their word "theocracy" because America has never been a theocracy), they see the conservatives who are merely trying to preserve the existing order as aggressors, leading to the belief that there is a societal trend toward theocracy.

[1]: When I first read this quotation, I thought that by "liberalism" Lewis couldn't have meant leftism as we know it today, but I didn't know what he might have meant. Then I found a blog called called Deviant Scholar whose author suggests "it is probably closer in meaning to what we would think of as Libertarianism with a conservative streak, or maybe conservatism with a libertarian streak."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Germany fails to consider deporting Muslims

In a sane and civilized society, that's what the headline would have read. Instead, it reads "Germany considers increased spying on Muslims." Because, as we all know, if you happen to have let into your house a stranger who believes he has a God-given mission to kill or subjugate you, the best way to deal with the threat he presents is to spy on him.

One of the points Lawrence Auster makes frequently is that liberals are continually being "shocked" by reality, and no matter how many times they are "shocked," they always find it "shocking" when the same thing that "shocked" them before happens again. Naturally, this was on my mind as I read this article, and I couldn't help but notice the number of times the word "shock" appears:

  • "Germans were shocked to learn that two of the bombers were native-born and had common German names, Fritz and Daniel."
  • "As shocked as they were by the arrests, the idea of spying on other Germans unnerves many in civil-rights minded Germany , where government surveillance recalls memories of Adolf Hitler."
  • "She noted that while it was a shock to hear of an Islamic terrorist named Fritz, it also was a shock this summer to hear of terrorist doctors in England and Scotland."
  • "That their names are Fritz and Daniel is shocking, but only means that the known spectrum of terrorists has now increased."

Now, one might be tempted to ask, since the Koran is filled with exhortations toward violence against non-Muslims, since Islam has a long history of warlike agression against non-Muslims dating back to its very founding, since the newspapers have been filled with an unending stream of reports of Islamic terrorist attacks on the Western world for decades now, why exactly is it so shocking to discover Muslims planning to kill Westerners? One might as well be "shocked" to see the sun rise in the morning.

But of course, if one subscribes to the liberal view of man as basically good, and evil arising only from external corrupting influences, and the view that everyone in the world wants to live in peace, love, and harmony, and the view that modern liberal secular democracy is the best way of life ever to exist anywhere, and that this fact is self-evident to everyone in the world, so that no one, having been exposed to this way of life, could possibly have any desire to live any other way, I suppose events like this are shocking. Besides, you can't kick that murderous invader out of your house; that would be discrimination.

By the way, the article states that one of the terrorist plotters was a white German convert to Islam, and implies that a second was also, though no information about him has been released. What can Europeans conclude from this information?

"This is what we can expect for the future: The attack plots are going to come fast and furious," he said. "And, as is clear in both these attacks, they're operating in new vistas. Terrorism in Europe is a part of life now."

Ah, terrorist attacks are just going to happen and there's nothing we can do about it. We might as well shrug our shoulders, mutter "it was nice while it lasted," hunker down, and prepare to die. Say, have these Europeans been reading John Derbyshire?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Reduction in residents' hours doesn't reduce death rates

One of the most ominous trends in medicine today is the ongoing trend away from being a respected sovereign profession with a high degree of authority and independence toward a more "team-based, cooperative" (i.e., subjugated to insurance companies, government, nurses, hospital administrators,etc.) one. There are many reasons for this, but in general, it fits perfectly with modern liberal society's view of anything smacking of authority, convention, or a traditional hierarchical social structure as bad, and non-judgemental, tolerant egalitarianism as good.

The call for more humble, less authoritarian doctors has manifested itself in many ways, not the least of which is an increasingly hostile attitude toward the tradition of intense residency training with its associated long work hours and frequent lack of sleep. As some may not know, the term "resident" comes from the fact that under the original system, these trainees actually lived in the hospital and basically never left. Though that requirement was abandoned long ago, for a long time interns (residents in their first year of training) were "on call" every other night, and residents every few nights, and call, especially for interns, typically involved being up virtually all night performing patient care duties, with seldom more than a chance to catch a few cat naps throughout the night.

Obviously, this system is unacceptable to liberals, because it is associated with producing authoritarian, "hardcore" doctors who think they know it all and can do it all, who have an air of confidence about their ability to handle any medical situation. Because this is non-egalitarian, it must be abolished. (The presence of liberals with this attitude within the medical profession has been greatly exacerbated by the presence of large numbers of women within the profession, who are concerned with "balancing" work and family life, a topic on which I have yet to write substantially about.) Liberals will bleat about how it's all about patient safety, but in reality I think they just can't stand the idea of doctors being so "hardcore," as they say, and, as I've learned as a new medical student, there are many liberal doctors and future doctors who feel this way too.

Starting with the famous Libby Zion case in 1984, there has been a movement to limit the number of hours residents can work, culminating in the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education's enacting the 80-hour-limit workweek for residency programs in 2003. This is a private accreditation rule rather than a law, but the threat of congressional action was imminent, and the ACGME felt that the medical profession would be better off self-regulated than federally regulated. The rules made it difficult for some programs to meet what they felt were long-established standards of postgraduate medical education: for example, a surgery resident might have the opportunity to participate in a rare procedure thanks to an emergency, but would now have to be sent home because he had reached the 30-consecutive-hour limit on in-hospital time. Still, the thread of congressional action was due to alleged patient safety issues, so everyone has been waiting with bated breath to see if the work hour limitations resulted in fewer medical errors.

Well, surprise surprise, a new study has come out showing that they haven't:
"We can say conclusively that the duty-hour regulations did not worsen patient mortality. There was a lot of concern about that, and we can conclusively say that's not the case," said Dr. Kevin G. Volpp, staff physician and core faculty member at the Center for Health Equity, Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "We can also say that there's some evidence of benefit in terms of mortality outcomes."
The only statistically significant difference the studies found was an improvement in mortality for medical (as opposed to surgical) patients at the VA. Meanwhile,

"The big question is how regulating work hours will affect the quality of training of the next generation of physicians who will be taking care of all of us for the next several decades," said Volpp, an assistant professor of medicine and health care systems at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Wharton School of Business. "That's the question no one really knows the answer to."
I don't know the answer either, but I have a prediction: it will make the quality of training worse.

Some may think that I, as not only a medical student who has yet to run this gauntlet, but an older one who will be running it in his mid-to-late thirties, am crazy for standing up for the old system. Certainly all of my fellow medical students whom I have heard voice an opinion on the matter have expressed disdain for the old system and support for the work hour restrictions, believing if anything that they're still not limited enough. But here's the rub: the disdain the express for the old system is of a piece with the disdain liberals express toward our society's traditional historical culture. Everything old, traditional, and Western European must go, because those old white males just didn't "get it." They were products of an ignorant and benighted time who didn't realize that people who strike a healthy balance between work and personal life make better doctors, instead believing that doctors have to be type-A macho jerks. They think that the younger generation has discovered the wonderful idea of shift work for the first time, which for some reason no one ever thought to apply to medicine before, but now that they have, the entire world is going to be filled with goodness and light. It doesn't occur to them that if doctors are shift-based, salaried employees, instead of independent professionals, they will continue to lose prestige, income, and the respect they traditionally as the final authority in the world of health care, until they are just yet another class of pencil-pushers overseen by middle managers.

This is a good example of what might be called the "positive feedback loop of liberalism," where once a liberal idea has infected a person or group, it begins to escalate, creating ever increasing and more fervent demands for even more liberalism. The work week rules were ostensibly established for safety reasons, but they soon created a shift-work mentality in new doctors; these new doctors forgot about the safety issues, and the idea of just plain not having to work as hard became the raison d'être for the restrictions. But since in an important job one will always have to work hard, someone looking for limits on hard work will never be satisfied; so the demands for ever more lenient standards--even more work-hour restrictions, part-time residencies and part-time attending/private practice positions (driven largely by women seeking to have families), and the transition of certain specialties, and in the ideals of some the entire profession, toward a shift-based salaried employment model rather than a sovereign independent professional model--never cease and grow ever more stringent.

There are certainly other reasons for this besides the ACGME work hour rules: for example, increasing numbers of women in the profession, a topic I really must address in its own entry, and the general immaturity of our society. The work hour restrictions, however, are a prime example of the law of unintended consequences, the deleterious effect of our society's obsession with "safety," and the way the medical profession, like our society in general, has become effectively suicidal due to liberalism.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Quote of the day

I just saw John Edwards on the news speaking at a Labor Day rally, and he made the following statement:

"America was built by men and women who were steel workers, who were mine workers..."

Really, Mr. Edwards? It's news to me that America was built by female steel workers and mine workers. I can't imagine how miniscule the number of female steel and mine workers is even today, let alone what it was when the industrial revolution was first getting off the ground.

Making such absurd statements must necessarily result from liberalism, with its axiomatic belief that all people must be totally equal and differences of either the individual or group kind must not exist. We've been hearing the same kind of thing from politicians with their constant reference to "servicemen and women" or our "sons and daughters" who fight to defend our country, phrases which are by now de rigeur for even "conservative" Republicans.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

When "kids" are no longer kids

When I wrote my post on the corrupted usage of the word "single" among the younger generations (though now that I think about it, it's not what single means that is telling, it's what it doesn't mean ), I had already noticed another similar trend: use of the word "kid" by those well into their twenties to refer to their peers.

It's easy to see where this comes from. It's natural for children and adolescents to refer to their peers as kids, and I can well remember doing this myself in high school: talking about the cool kids, the nerdy kids, the shop kids, etc. And if one remains a full-time student, it's easy to see how this habit could persist, especially since our society promotes prolonging adolescence until one's thirties. I've heard my fellow medical students employing this usage--talking about how many "kids" from this year's class are from such-and-such undergraduate institution, for example, or how many "kids" from the med school they saw at such-and-such bar over the weekend. Some of these people just graduated from college this May, but others have been working for a year or two. At my last job, I even had a co-worker, also a medical school applicant, who I think was 27 and did this. I think it's not merely a leftover habit from childhood but a sign of something deeper: that adults don't think of themselves as adults. In the past, a person of the age of majority would have been extremely self-conscious had he let the word "kid" slip in reference to those his age. Now people are using the word without irony, without thinking it's anything unusual.

And just as I've been thinking about this over the past few weeks, Diana West has been in the news with her new book The Death of the Grown Up. In an interview with Newsweek she says:

I remember being at a high-school party, and at 12 o’clock the mother comes into the middle of the room and blows a police whistle and says, “Thank you for coming, goodnight.” What parent would do that today? It’s the same thing with the spring-break syndrome, where kids are planning expensive trips, going out unchaperoned, they are drinking, debauching, absolutely running amok, yet the parents say, “I can’t do anything about it.” Parents have abdicated responsibilities to give in to adolescent desire.

This is reminiscent of the story of the Catholic high school in a wealthy Long Island suburb that cancelled its prom a few years ago because of not merely the debauchery, but the parent-sanctioned-and-funded debauchery that had accumulated around it. Parents were renting liquor-serving limos, chartering "booze cruises," and renting houses in the Hamptons for unchaperoned post-prom parties. Those were presumably parents in their late forties. How much worse will the next generation, those now in their early twenties, be with their children? Will they counter-rebel and return to traditional values, having realized the havoc they're wreaking on society? It's possible if things get bad enough, but it's going to be difficult as long as they think of themselves as "kids."